Couturier, Rinaldo among Flyers headed to Phantoms

Sean Couturier (left) scored 13 goals in his rookie season, while Brayden Schenn (right) scored 12 in his first year. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
Sean Couturier (left) scored 13 goals in his rookie season, while Brayden Schenn (right) scored 12 in his first year. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
Posted: September 16, 2012

For the Flyers, there is a sliver of good news if the NHL lockout lasts for a significant amount of time: Several of their promising young players will get a chance to stay sharp by playing for their American Hockey League affiliate.

Players who are exempt from waivers can be sent to the AHL, and Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, Zac Rinaldo, and Eric Wellwood were among the Flyers assigned to the Adirondack Phantoms on Saturday night.

In addition, defenseman Danny Syvret and forward Matt Ford cleared waivers Friday and will attend the Phantoms' camp - which starts Sept. 29 in Voorhees - if the lockout is ongoing.

"For me, I'm just thinking of it as a positive," said Rinaldo, a feisty winger who was second in the NHL with 232 penalty minutes last season. "Go down to the 'A' and get better as a hockey player. It might be a confidence builder for me. Just go down and play some hockey and not get involved with too much fighting. Just score some goals."

"I'm really happy I have someplace to play, and I think the AHL is going to be if not the best league in the world, in the top two," Gustafsson said. "There will be a lot of young players down there and you get to stay in game shape."

When (if?) the labor problems end, Gustafsson will be in contention for a spot on the Flyers' third defensive pairing.

"This is the best opportunity I have ever had to make the roster and get some playing time," said Gustafsson, who played in 30 games with the Flyers last season and was plus-12. "I think I found my stride a little bit in the playoffs last year and I want to keep going from there.

"I had a good summer and I feel good about myself, so the sooner it starts, the better."

The 5-foot-10 Gustafsson has put on some weight; he's now 200 pounds.

"I wanted to get a little stronger and keep the same foot speed," he said. "Being quick is what I have to be if I'm going to play."

One of the NHL's top rookies last season, the 19-year-old Couturier also gained five pounds over the summer. He said he is "more prepared and ready" than a year ago.

"I know a little more what to expect," he said, conceding that "it's a little frustrating not knowing if the season will get going. But as long as I can play and get in game shape, it'll be good whenever [the collective-bargaining agreement] gets done."

Couturier, who had 13 goals and was second on the team with a plus-18 rating last season, has been working out at the Skate Zone in Voorhees since early August. He is expected to center the Flyers' third line. Schenn, 21, could be the team's second-line left winger.

If the lockout is not over when the Phantoms' camp starts, some Flyers will be wearing Phantoms jerseys and some may play in Europe. Others may rent ice time and skate at the Flyers' Voorhees facility.

Asked if he would help direct the Phantoms during their training camp if the NHL has not resolved its labor issues, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was noncommittal.

At least he knows that some of the players who figure to play key roles for the Flyers will have a place to play - even if the lockout lasts.

"When young players are on the ice, it's always good for development," Laviolette said. "Certainly we wish they were here, but that will be determined."

All told the Flyers assigned 26 players to the Phantoms, including Ben Holmstrom, Brandon Manning, Mike Testwuide, and Harry Zolnierczyk.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com or on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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